Tim O’Callaghan has been appointed the new head of Piper Alderman’s Adelaide Office after the last head, Tony Britten-Jones, reached the end of his term.
O’Callaghan was born and bred in Adelaide, and has been with the firm since entering as a fresh-faced university graduate 29 years ago. He jokes that he’s almost like a “child” of Piper Alderman, and says he’s chuffed by the appointment.
“I still see the firm in Adelaide as being a really important part of the community, and I’ve always been keen to stay in Adelaide,” he says. “I think I can play a part in it as a firm that’s fairly prominent in the South Australian market.”
He credits a professional development programme, which sees Piper Alderman send its more senior lawyers to complete a law firm leadership course at Harvard Business School, as something that will help him step into Britten-Jones shoes.
“It’s a really good thing for the firm setting up a solid strategic leadership group, and the course helped me put together a framework.”
O’Callaghan, a specialist in intellectual property strategy and management, started thinking about moving into managerial roles over the past 5-10 years, and has headed naturally in that direction as some of the partners who have been around since he first joined the firm, have started to retire.
He’s got big plans to make the new job his own.
“The goal is to be the corporate law firm of choice in South Australia, and I don’t think we’re necessarily there yet, but I don’t think we’re far off either,” he says. “We want to give the best experience of a professional services firm to the clients, the people who work here, and to the community in general.”
This will involve setting up a series of projects and programmes that will deal with each of the three areas.
It may sound old fashioned, he says, but it’s not completely altruistic.
“It’s also about recognising that a lot of people who work in the law firm, end up being in positions where they are choosing law firms to work with later,” he says. He wants Piper Alderman to be the firm of choice.
O’Callaghan adds that he thinks we can learn from some of the accountant and advisory firms that acknowledge that it’s just not possible for everyone to go on to become a partner, and indeed not all want to either.
“So while they are with us it’s about them having the best platform and environment to develop their professional and technical skills.”
He doesn’t deny he faces challenges, and says the SA market in particular is a tough one with some significant economic challenges.
As well as focusing on Adelaide, these challenges also mean it will be important to look beyond it - nationally and abroad - and help the firm’s younger senior associates and partners attract these clients and build up a big practice, he says.
When O’Callaghan isn’t working, the father of four is training towards his black belt in Tae Kwon Do, or singing in a rock band – although he hasn’t had much time for the latter of late.
“I played with a band called The Strangers for 10 years until a couple of years ago. I then did performances with my sister as a duo called Hey Soul Sister. I’ve been playing guitar and singing all my life,” he says. “I’ll probably keep it more casual for a while though because there is a bit of a time issue [with the new job].”
Britten-Jones, the outgoing head of office who has now finished his six year term, maintains his role as the national deputy managing partner and head of the firm’s property and projects unit.